Friday 23 February 2018

Television review: RTE feels it can get along without Giles's greatness

John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady
John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It's amazing really, the amount of bad ideas going around. The recent BBC series, Famous, Rich ,and Homeless, in which celebrities such as funnyman Nick Hancock and snooker's Willie Thorne sleep rough for about 10 days, is meant to give us an insight into the lives of the destitute. Except there is such a defect in the basic premise I feel it is insulting the intelligence of the reader even to mention it; yet mention it I must, since it seems to have entirely escaped the attention of the finest minds in British broadcasting.

Nick Hancock, Willie Thorne and the rest are not homeless. Willie isn't even rich any more, due to his addiction to gambling, but that's just a minor issue here, next to the overwhelmingly obvious one that if you are "homeless" for 10 days, after which you return to your proverbial mansion in Belgravia, you are not homeless at all.

The deepest horror of actual homelessness is surely the fact that usually there is no end in sight. And without that, you really don't have a problem that is of any relevance in this area, in all likelihood you are just making a television programme.

Journalists too have been doing this sort of thing for generations, immersing themselves in the lifestyles of the poor and unknown for a few days and discovering that it is indeed very difficult to live on about 10 quid a week - and then they're gone, thinking that they're George Orwell.

None of which would matter if there weren't also people with good ideas who are not having their programmes made, rejected by the same sort of top executives who are 'green-lighting' the other stuff.

And by 'good' ideas here, I don't mean anything that is magnificently ground-breaking, just something that doesn't have an enormous hole at the centre of it.


At RTE Sport, they've been working away at one very bad idea for a long time, and it seems they have finally got there. At the end of Euro 2016, John Giles, probably the greatest TV sports analyst who ever lived, will be retiring from RTE.

He will not be retiring from the rest of the world, just from RTE, where, of course they have to make tough decisions in the light of ongoing realities in the marketplace going forward, to which they feel that the ideal response is to diminish one of their strongest assets.

'The Panel' has probably brought more credit to RTE over the years than anything else it has attempted and while Giles, Dunphy and Brady are getting older, I believe it is quite common for human beings to get older. This does not seem to be a problem for Newstalk, where Giles talks about football for about half-an-hour every Thursday night, invariably putting out at least one very good idea, which stands there miles above all the very bad ideas that we find everywhere in football punditry and life in general.

He will continue his column in The Herald, while RTE moves on to new challenges, apparently satisfied with the dismantling of one of its most successful creations.

Is it just age-ism? In a way, you'd prefer if it was, because the alternatives are more troubling. It could just be that they don't know that Giles is great or at least they don't understand it. That they are prepared to lose someone of such depth and authority, when there is no need for it, imbued with that corporate restlessness which ensures that anything in this world that is any good, is in constant danger.

Most ex-footballers who end up talking about it on TV are just making noise. Not only has Giles' contribution been on another planet to all that garbage, the clarity of his thinking, his lack of even the smallest trace of eejitry, have made him one of the heroes of contemporary Ireland - and dear God, there aren't too many of them knocking around.

RTE has already sold off a chunk of its rights to Euro 2016 to TV3, so perhaps this can be seen in the context of an overall desire to stop showing people things they want to see.

Day by day, they're getting there.

Famous, Rich and Homeless (BBC1)

John Giles (RTE1)

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